Members of the LGBTQ and black communities and their supporters gathered on Friday at a New York City rally to express their solidarity with Jussie Smollett, days after he was the victim of an attack in Chicago.
On Tuesday, police said they were investigating a “possible racially motivated” assault on the 36-year-old actor, who identifies as gay and also plays a gay man on Empire, by two unknown assailants who allegedly approached him, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him in the face, poured an unknown chemical substance on him and wrapped a rope around his neck. The suspects fled after the attack and Smollett traveled on his own to a hospital, where he was said to be in good condition.
Smollett’s supporters demonstrated at the Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan.
“JOIN us for a Solidarity Rally for #JussieSmollett and LGBTQ survivors of violence,” read a statement on the event’s Facebook page. “Black LGBTQ communities, particularly black trans women, have been assaulted, murdered, and face violence every day. With the normalization of violence against queer people, fueled by a toxic racist and anti-LGBTQ political agenda, we must address the ongoing violence against our communities.”
The Hollywood Reporter had said on Thursday that more than two dozen organizations, including LGBTQ groups such as GLAAD and Queerocracy, and activist groups such as the Black and Latino LGBTQ Coalition and NYC Black Pride, were involved in the rally.
Dozens gathered for the rally, where they chanted, “When queer people are under attack… Stand up, fight back!” Others held posters that read, “Justice for Jussie.”
Smollett broke his silence about the attack on Friday, saying in a statement, “Let me start by saying that I’m OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”
He said he is working with police, who are investigating the attack but have yet to identify any suspects, and believes “justice will be served.
On Thursday, Smollett’s family said in a statement that the actor “was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack,” calling it a “racial and homophobic hate crime.” The family also noted in their statement that they wanted “people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country.”
“As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily,” Smollett said in his statement. “I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process. Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”